After eight days of surveying we finished the Spey mainstem salmon fry index surveys today (below Spey dam at least). We usually leave the sites above Spey Dam for a couple more weeks so the results from there will follow in due course.
53 sites were surveyed although only 51 are reported below. The two other sites are an additional site introduced at Kinchurdy in 2015 and an alternative Aviemore site surveyed for the first time today. The results from the Aviemore site will be discussed below these sites are not presently part of our routine reporting network.
The Spey 2012 – 2016 salmon fry index survey classification scheme and the 2017 salmon fry counts are shown in the tables below.
The mean salmon fry count for sites downstream of Spey Dam in 2017 was 32.5/min, the highest mean count recorded during the six year monitoring period. This situation was not unexpected; there were good numbers of spawning fish in the mainstem last year and flows during the critical incubation period were benign. We have yet to do a mainstem survey, downstream of Spey Dam, where no salmon fry were found, but to find such consistently high numbers is unprecedented. The relatively high abundance of fry at present is readily observed by anyone who takes a few steps along the shallow margins. Fry are only the building blocks but our monitoring shows that high fry counts are usually followed by high parr counts in subsequent years; barring population limiting or regulating, events.
These surveys are primarily to assess the salmon fry population but we also catch parr. In 2016 the parr counts were published in the same format for the first time with similar colour coding based on 20% bands.
Most of the sites surveyed are considered to provide good or excellent habitat for fry, but not all. One example of a site where the habitat is categorised as parr in the Aviemore site S195L1. However, despite the poor habitat we still caught 53 salmon fry in three minutes today; even the poor areas of the Spey support decent numbers this year.
There are few suitable run/riffle habitat sites in this part of the river but we did survey a new site today 1,500m further upstream. The habitat here was excellent resulting in a catch of 224 salmon fry, the highest count from any site this year. It is good to see that suitable habitat is being well used as fry produced in these small patches of good habitat will help populate the entire stretch with parr.
It was good to complete the mainstem surveys within a relatively short period during a period with consistent low water conditions. Our attentions will now turn to the Avon, and Livet, where we will repeat some of the surveys from last year to see if fry counts have recovered from the low values recorded in the wake of Storm Frank.
Incidentally volunteers are always welcome on these surveys. If you fancy a hard working day out in a beautiful part of the Spey catchment just get in touch.